Babar and Friend, tampering with the crime scene

Last Thursday I had a wonderful time talking to teens, parents, teachers, and book lovers at a gem of a children’s bookstore: Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston). I presented with Erin Dionne, a fellow Penguin author, who wrote Notes from an Accidental Band Geek, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, and others (which you should totally read! She’s a great writer and very, very funny!)

The Blue Bunny — which is named after a trademark image associated with antique Dedham pottery — has a strong sense of community and an amazing creative vibe. Maybe because it’s co-owned by the well-known children’s book author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. The store sells books for infants up through teens, runs creativity workshops, publishes a biannual literary arts magazines (by and for grade school kids) called Hutch, houses a teen/young adult book club called Blue2, and hosts author events.

First Erin and I talked about our roads to the writer’s life and publication, and discovered we may actually be the same person. We developed our love of writing early (age five or six) and shared a love of Harriet the Spy (elementary school). In high school she was a band geek (her words); I was a choir and drama geek. And now we’re both Penguin authors. How cool! Her forthcoming novel is an art mystery surrounding the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Which is weird because I wrote an art mystery (Tokyo Heist) and did a lot of my research around that same museum in order to understand art heists and criminal networks.

Dun dun DUN . . .

Cupcakes w/ our book covers, made by Janet Reynolds!

Anyway. The thing that blew me away was how many people came to this bookstore event, despite some pretty stiff competition — we had Halloween and Hurricane Sandy in the same week. But that store filled up. There were actual teenagers there too! Folks, this does not always happen at bookstore events. I see teens at library events, and schools (of course) but not in great numbers at stores. So this made my day. The kids asked excellent questions (okay, adults did too) and we met several young writers — including one who was headed right home after our event to pound out words on her NaNoWriMo project.

So what brought people out on a cold fall night to hear about our books and talk about reading and writing in general? Was it the store’s fantastic promotional efforts? The super smart and friendly staff? The cupcakes with our book covers? (Cute, aren’t they? Pumpkins illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds look on . . . )

Maybe there’s just a wonderful strong sense of community at this store. This is precisely what we don’t get from Amazon. The bookstore as a cozy community living room.Thanks, Blue Bunny! Keep it up!

Erin (& her daughter) and I, about to eat a ton of cupcakes!